“Show me the money,” was the resounding call that filled the Benes rooms on the evening of Feb 20.
The words, which came from Dr. Dan Vogt, professor of chemistry, were directed at low faculty salaries and changes to Ohio Wesleyan’s curriculum, which would make travel-learning courses, course connections and the first-year pilot course part of the university’s catalogue.
The Academic Policy Committee’s (APC) OWU Connections Curricular Plan was discussed, voted upon, and passed with some alterations at the Feb. 20 faculty meeting.
The decision determined whether these courses would be offered in the future. Dr. Danielle Hamill, zoology department chair and chairperson of the Academic Policy Committee, said, “The OWU Connections curriculum is designed to include opportunities for students to make connections at various levels, including connections to the university, connections across disciplines, connections beyond the classroom, global connections and more.
“The Committee believes each curricular component has academic merit, as well as being of interest to students and faculty. “
Hamill explained changes in the curriculum must be approved by the APC, which is a committee consisting of nine faculty elected by their peers, three students appointed by WCSA, and three administrators (typically the provost, dean of academic affairs, and registrar).
The types of curricular changes the committee approves include new courses and majors, as well as more over-arching changes such as introduction of the Q requirement, or, in this case, adoption of a new curricular plan.
To those who know about OWU’s commitment to service and international relations, the idea of approving these courses into the curriculum seems moot. However, these courses require extra work from faculty members who choose to lead them, and they do not get compensated financially.
“If you’re going to implement this plan, we (the faculty) can’t do more work,” said Professor of Chemistry Kim Lance, a member of the APC. “So somehow you need to compensate us for doing this extra work.”
“That compensation could come in a variety of ways. It could come in course releases, in professional development funds to apply to your research, or it could come in just paying you a stipend – x amount of dollars to do it.”
These concerns led the APC to recommend “that a first step towards addressing full-time faculty workload will be adopted including the option of two ‘2+’ semesters in a six-year period and credit for faculty-directed individualized student study that may be taken as a course release, professional development funds, or stipend.”
A course release, Lance explained, is a permission given to a faculty member to drop one or two of the courses out of the six they are contracted to do on a yearly basis, in order to do other activities such as the administrative work done by department chairs.
According to the American Association of University Professors Faculty Salary Survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, as of 2011, full time professors at OWU are, on average, paid $80,000 a year, while associate professors are paid $58,200 and assistant professors $52,000.
President Rock Jones, who attended the faculty meeting, acknowledges the inadequacy of faculty salaries. “I am deeply committed to enhancing faculty salaries. For too long, faculty salaries have hovered at or near the bottom of faculty salaries among the Great Lakes College Association institutions.”
“The Board adopted a resolution to bring faculty salaries to the median of the GLCA, and we continue to work to fulfill that resolution as quickly as possible. Two years ago, faculty received an average increase of seven percent in salary, something found almost nowhere else in the country in this difficult economy,” he said.
Given the extra work involved with taking on the additional course-load involved with the OWU Connections curricular program, some faculty members are discontented with these figures. Some are discontented with their salaries overall.
Additionally, in order to maintain and fully implement the new curricular plan, APC felt OWU would have to hire at least seven new faculty members – another expense for the university.
Some faculty at the meeting felt that paying faculty for extra work on a case-by-case basis goes against the mission of the university, and that it will lead to neglect of students. This is the argument that led to the motion to strike the clause from the plan.
Joe Musser, professor of English, spearheaded this argument, but was unavailable for comment.
“Ohio Wesleyan is like just about every institute of higher education in the United States in that they really run on the good will of the employees…There are so many people here who do things that are beyond their contract but they do it because they are part of the community,” Lance said.
He said that there is nothing in his contract to write letters of recommendation for students – he does not get paid for it – but he does it because he wants his students to succeed. He added the reasoning behind those in opposition of the clause was that if the university started to pay faculty for extra work, there might be the demand for being paid for things like letters of recommendation and independent studies.
Lance said this could be a dangerous road to go down, because underpaid faculty will have to choose things to do for students based on whether they get financial compensation.
According to Lance, though the Board of Trustees passed a faculty salary enhancement package, last year faculty salaries only increased a dollar each – due to a drop in enrollment. It was reported during the meeting that the University’s deficit is at $330,000, and OWU’s expenses are 17% larger than its $6 million budget.
Lance, who has taught at OWU for 23 years, said he thinks a major part of OWU’s deficit and dropping enrollment numbers is a lack of focus on student housing in favor for more focus on specific programs.
Kyle Smith, associate professor of Psychology and member of the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid (CAFA), presented findings from a consultant hired by the university to assess prospective student perception of OWU.
He said the committee found that matriculating students believe OWU is strong in theory-to-practice, community service and global learning opportunities. Students who chose not to come here see OWU as being weak in those areas. He added that committee members were surprised that OWU dorms weren’t rated far below others; regardless, affordability, location, campus life, academic programs, etc., had more of an effect on final decisions.
He also said that financial aid was one of the biggest factors in matriculation.
At the beginning of the meeting, President Jones said that OWU had seen a higher freshman retention rate than last year – at 95%. However, this is lower than previous years. Additionally, after a recent prospective student day, the Admissions department was pleased with the amount of visitors.
Lance added that after visiting Otterbein University recently, he learned they are placing a larger emphasis on their residential life by working on a plan that ensures seniors have their own apartments. He said that this was why Otterbein is drawing more prospective students to their campus than OWU.
“There was a time where students were choosing Ohio Wesleyan because our suites had individual bathrooms as opposed to two per hall,” Lance said. “Students care about where they are going to live. We keep ignoring that.”
Whatever the reason may be for dropping enrollment numbers, it is adversely affecting the faculty that OWU considers absolutely instrumental in the university’s success.
In Rock Jones’ inaugural address as president of OWU, delivered Oct. 10, 2008, he said, “We stand on the shoulders of our faculty. The reputation of this institution was developed first as a result of the teaching and scholarship of a stellar faculty.”
“This well-deserved recognition continues to this day. The teacher-scholars of this faculty are this institution’s greatest asset, and they are our students’ greatest resource. We must work to increase the size of our faculty, building on our core strengths and diversifying the range of expertise represented here.”
In other business, Kaaren Courtney, professor emeritus of modern foreign language, presented a memorial resolution for the late Susanna Bellocq and asked that it be accepted as a permanent part of the minutes of the meeting, and that a copy be sent to the Bellocq family. A moment of silence and reflection followed the presentation.